About gratitude

I bless Ra, the fierce sun burning bright,
I bless Isis-Luna in the night,
I bless the air, the Horus-hawk,
I bless the earth on which I walk.

“Illuminatus! Part II. Golden Apple.” Robert Anton Wilson, Robert Shea.

A part of the brain called the reticular activating system (RAS) serves as a filter for external information. This filter only lets through the essentials, including the things we predominantly focus on. Suppose we are habitually resentful of some kind of injustice in the world. In that case, the RAS will make sure that we notice as much injustice as possible. Which does not mean at all that there is little good in the world. It is everyone’s personal choice, whether it’s conscious or not, where to direct their thoughts.

Due to the RAS, the things we continuously think about grow in our minds to enormous proportions. Since we notice only those things. Many people frequently complain about something, looking for excuses for why everything in their life is not the way they would like. The worst thing about their excuses is that they are mostly right. Yes, the world provides absolutely different conditions for everyone. One person inherited a whole fortune. While the other was born in an African settlement. And he has to walk several kilometers back and forth every day to get drinking water, carrying as many buckets on him as possible.

Almost any position can be justified by rational arguments. Which, by the way, most people do while reasoning with themselves (I’m certainly not an exception.) The nature of the self-image is such that it must continuously assert itself and maintain its righteousness. After all, if a person believes in something, then it cannot be a lie. Thus, a person finds more and more evidence of him being right, his beliefs grow stronger. And if he is not taught the growth mindset, then his world becomes more and more ossified.

Dark cloud

I am one of many people who complained a lot and became convinced that they were right. I always aimed very high, but I focused on my lack of abilities and how hard it was to take each next step. The slightest failure could ruin my mood for a week or even more.

Psychologically, I often found myself in a very scary place. At the same time, there were many things in my life painted in entirely different tones: dark, light, colorful. But I only saw dark. And it would take a lot of effort to see something light. The prevailing thoughts were how pathetic and helpless I was, that all my efforts were in vain, that I never even had a chance. The walls of my room pressed on me. I felt like I was in a trap from which I couldn’t get out. I was in constant anticipation of something terrible that was about to happen to me. I wound myself up until I felt the physical need to go outside and refresh my thoughts because it was already dangerous to stay in that place.

Even describing this experience, which has not been repeated for many years, feels unsettling. It was such a usual process for me. The pressure of my desires and the lack of any means or skills to fulfill them were crushing me. I could not be pleased with anything. A dark cloud always hung over me.

Brrr… Please stand up and shake this shitty picture off yourself.

How I got out of this shit

I have used many tools to get rid of obsessive negative thoughts. I stopped watching all movies that even remotely remind me of depression. I started watching comedies, listening and reading positive books with a happy bias. I massively watched and listened to the YouTube channels that I loved to tune my mindset into the right wave.

As you may know, ideas in, ideas out. Or, your mind is what you feed it.

And one of the most effective tools for me was gratitude. I didn’t get it right away. I’d heard and read a lot about it but didn’t take it seriously.

In my dark world, the idea that gratitude could change something in my life was laughable. I thought, “What can I be grateful for? For being head over heels in debt? For having been raised as a big child? For the fact that they cultivated a poverty mindset in me? Maybe I should be grateful for the fact that neither my parents nor the school nor the university, and nobody at all prepared me for adult life?”

Surely, I love my parents, and they were always full of love for me. They did the best they could with the tools they had. To raise a child correctly is almost impossible. And all the responsibility for the fact that I grew up an idiot lies only with me.

Anyway, as with many other things, realizing the importance of gratitude came little by little. On the advice from a book, I decided to write down every morning 10 things I was grateful for. It felt weird. And I just couldn’t come up with 10 items. Sometimes even one item was just too much for me.

It’s hard to start thanking

For various reasons, I couldn’t think of the things I was grateful for. I often had the feeling that it was stupid. And my brain knew a lot of other such tricks.

Subtle questions that bypass the defense system proved highly effective for me. For example, “If I wanted to be grateful, what would I be grateful for?” Or “If I had to be grateful, what would I be grateful for?”

It also took a while for me to realize that I could be grateful for small things. I was inclined to look for some grandiose events in my life, of which there were not so many. It turned out that I can be grateful even for the air I breathe (only if I want to, of course).

It was gratitude for the small and seemingly insignificant things that became the most healing for me. Since I could find those in abundance:

  • My eyes receiving such a wealth of visual information;
  • My blood distributing vital nutrients to the cells;
  • My tireless heart beating non-stop;
  • My lungs processing the air, which enriches the blood;
  • Water making up 65% of my body;
  • Electricity flowing in my brain between billions of neurons.

Isn’t that magic!

In addition to making a gratitude list in the morning, I also gradually added other daily actions:

  • before going to sleep, I found a moment from the last day for which I was grateful and devoted this feeling at least half a minute;
  • in the morning, as soon as I opened my eyes, I said, “thank you”;
  • in my mind, I said “thank you” when paying for anything.

The more time I devoted to gratitude, the more significant change I felt in my perception of life. The world showed me new vivid and unexpected colors. I began to appreciate many things that I took for granted.

It turned out that there are so many things around me that I could be grateful for. The Internet contains the answer to almost every question I have. The city water supply allows me to have showers in the bathroom. There is a grocery store at every turn in the city where I can buy food. I can order almost anything with home delivery. My phone is more powerful than the most powerful computer 20 years ago. And everything is only getting better.

Conclusion

Of course, if a person is pleased with everything, then he won’t be willing to achieve anything in his life. Not wanting anything is a separate topic that isn’t interesting to me yet.

Growth is my highest value, so I still have to desire something that I don’t have yet. On the other hand, I can easily slip into a depression by continually thinking about what I lack. And one of the tools I use to maintain a comfortable psychological state is gratitude.

Gratitude effectively healed the wounds I had inflicted on myself. It revealed new bright colors in my life, just as real as that darkness that was always on my mind.

The world is full of all sorts of stuff. And it became evident to me that shit is inevitable, and life is beautiful.

And I’m grateful for it!

Crucial points

  • The nature of the self-image is such that it must continuously assert itself and maintain its righteousness. After all, if a person believes in something, then it cannot be a lie.
  • Ideas in, ideas out. Your mind is what you feed it.
  • In the beginning, questions that bypass the defense system are very beneficial. For example, “If I wanted to be grateful, what would I be grateful for?” Or “If I had to be grateful, what would I be grateful for?”
  • There is no need to look for life-altering events in our lives to thank for. We can be grateful for seemingly insignificant things like the air we breathe.
  • Gratitude heals the wounds and reveals new bright colors in the world.
  • The world is full of all sorts of stuff. Shit is inevitable, and life is beautiful.